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Michael Gove Has Rejected Suggestions The Government Could Impose A Nationwide 'Circuit-Break' Lockdown

Michael Gove has rejected calls for a national lockdown.

4 min read

Michael Gove has rejected suggestions the government could back a time-limited national lockdown, saying infection rates are not high enough.

The Cabinet Office minister said it would be an "error" to place England into another national lockdown, claiming the current level of infection did not warrant the step "at the moment".

It comes after Labour urged the government to consider the approach, with shadow education secretary Kate Green saying it would provide an opportunity to "reverse the spread" of the virus.

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge, she said: "What we're saying is that a circuit-breaker for two to three weeks would mean that we would be able to halt and reverse the spread of the infection right across the country.

"We could use that time to boost our lab capacity, to put proper local tracing processes in place and then we would have that breathing space which would buy us time really and stop the real danger that our NHS faces, that our hospitals are going to be filling up far too quickly over the next few weeks.

"And so it would really give us the chance to reset and take a step back before the virus really spirals right out of control."

She added: "I think it is really important not to waste the period of a circuit-break...It's not just everybody goes home and stays at home for two to three weeks and then we come back out again."

But asked on the programme if ministers would consider the proposals, Mr Gove replied: "No".

"It would seem an error to try and impose on every part of the country the same level of restriction when we know that the disease is spreading more intensively and quicker in some parts of the country," he said.

"The nature of the spread of the disease is different in this wave than it was earlier this year.

"It seems to be wrong to impose restrictions on economic and personal lives in parts of the country where the disease is not spreading intensely."

Pressed on whether the government could impose a wider lockdown if continues continue to rise during winter, he added: "We always look at how the disease spreads and we will take whatever steps are necessary to maintain public health.

"The Labour Party are arguing the blanket restrictions across the country at the moment and the spread and nature of the disease does not merit that at the moment."

The comments come amid an ongoing row over the imposition of Tier Three restrictions in Greater Manchester, with Mayor Andy Burnham resisting the measures unless ministers provide further financial support for industries which would be forced to close.

But asked about negotiations with local leaders, Mr Gove accused Mr Burnham of being more focussed on "press conferences and posturing" than reaching a deal.

"I want to reach an agreement with the political leadership in Greater Manchester," he said.

"I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they have indulged in and I want them to work with us in order to to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS.

"Because an absence of action will mean more people get infected. As more people get infected that will place more pressure on the NHS.

"And the more people, sadly, in intensive care beds in the North West and in Manchester who are suffering from coronavirus, the fewer intensive care beds there for people with other serious conditions."

He added:"All this is happening as we move closer to the winter. And instead of press conferences and posturing what we need is action to save people’s lives."

But responding to the comments, Mr Burnham rejected his opposition was about "politics or money".

"This is all about the health of the people of Greater Manchester," he told the Andrew Marr show.

"We were the first in the country, myself and the ten leaders here, to accept local restrictions and that was three months ago. So, to those who say we are playing politics, I would point them to that which proves we are not doing that.

"The truth is, health and protecting health is about more than controlling the virus. We have been under those restrictions for three months now and people's mental health is pretty low.

"People are worrying about their jobs, their kids, their homes and their businesses. So this isn't about politics or money, this is about people, people's health and what is right for them."

He added: "What I would say to the Government is let's come together and agree a package of support that helps people through this.

"A punishing lockdown without support, trapping places in Tier Three all winter, I think, will cause real harm to health in the broadest possible sense."

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